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Galvanize hosting Internet of Things startup weekend

Galvanize's newest location on Platte St. in Denver will host a first-of-its-kind startup weekend  focused on creating hardware and software for the Internet of Things (IoT) May 29-31.

The startup weekend will bring teams together to prototype hardware with software and internet connectivity, with a winning team getting a free, one-month membership to Galvanize's newest location at 1644 Platte St. 

Participants will have a chance to work on one of 15 internet-connected prototyping boards donated by Particle (formerly Spark). The boards will allow the teams of innovators to prototype connected hardware as easily, and quickly as a web app, according to the organizers. Particle itself is moving forward out of the startup stage. "Particle got its start via a Kickstarter campaign in mid 2013," explains Steve Herschleb, one of the event organizers.

Teams participating in the weekend long event will have access to prototyping software, hardware and other tools that will allow them to create a product. The goal of the project is to prototype a product and pitch a business based on the prototype by Sunday evening.

"The Particle Core is Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity which is how the price has remained so affordable," Herschleb says. "Like other hardware prototyping devices, additional functionality . . . can be added by connecting additional hardware. Particle also has another product called the Electron that has cellular connectivity," he says, giving more insight into what's possible with the devices being used in the event.

Tickets to participate in the event that starts on May 29 at 6 p.m. are $99, and are available here. Galvanize and Up Global are offering Confluence Denver readers a 33 percent discount if they use the code: Confluence Denver.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Lending Source wins innovation award

The National Association of Development Companies (NADCO) has recognized Colorado Lending Source with its Innovation in Economic Development Award. The Denver-based organization, was recognized for its use of the Ice House Entrepreneurship program to help train people to become entrepreneurs.

"This award is meant to be presented to an organization who has used innovative means in order to meet the economic development goals of a specific community or population," says Sally Roberston, NADCO chair. "This means that the winning organization created a new program, service, or delivery process that has never before been applied, which benefits underserved communities or populations."

Denver's Colorado Lending Source has a long history of supporting small businesses and startups across Colorado. focusses on underserved populations, including veterans, low-income and unemployed persons. It says that in 2014 alone it helped more than 200 small businesses. Those businesses that worked with the organization put nearly $275 million into Colorado's economy last year. Those companies also provided just shy of 2,000 jobs.

Colorado Lending Source has adopted the Ice House Entrepreneurship training program from the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI). The immersive, 10-week course focuses on eight aspects of creating a small business. They include recognizing opportunities, putting ideas into action, pursuing learning as well as the power of being persistent and others. The organization licenses the curriculum and course materials from ELI.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Techweek expands to Denver

Techweek is coming to Denver. It's no surprise that the national conference, which focuses on the tech scene across the U.S., is coming here -- the tech scene along the Front Range is, to say the least, booming.

The announcement was made earlier this week as was the announcement of Techweek’s new CEO, Katy Lynch. As one of her first moves as CEO she announced the expansion of the national conference series to six new locations, including Denver. "Techweek Denver will be a standalone event where we focus wholeheartedly on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in Denver," Lynch says.

"As one of the fastest growing municipalities in the U.S., we have had our eye on the Denver/Boulder area for some time," Lynch explains. "We can't wait to jump in and shine a national spotlight on the innovative companies in the area. We expect only more growth from the tech & startup scene over the next few years -- and know that the Techweek community will completely embrace Denver's incredible young companies, beautiful and growing city, and spring skiing!"

Techweek attracted 28,000 attendees across the U.S. last year. Its events include an all-day hackathon, a fashion/tech show, a TV and film fest and a hiring fair, and the Launch Championship to help springboard startups. The events also include panels, keynote speakers, workshops and more.

The Launch Championship offers startups $50,000 in cash and prizes in each market that hosts a Techweek event, according to Lynch. "The winners from each city are flown to the national championship in Miami at the end of the year to compete for an additional $50,000," she adds.

At this point, the event in Denver does not have a set date. Lynch says the group will announce the date in the coming months.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver's new entrepreneurial hub, The Commons on Champa, opens doors

To capitalize on the popularity and support the community of startups in the city, Denver has launched The Commons on Champa, a new, collaborative workspace that's being billed as a public campus for entrepreneurship.

The Commons is located at 1245 Champa St. next to the Denver Performing Arts Center making it easy access downtown from the Light Rail and other forms of transportation. The Commons was created through a partnership between the Downtown Denver Partnership, City and County of Denver, Colorado Technology Association and several businesses.

The 20,000-square-foot facility is designed to meet the needs of today's startups, with a focus on technology. It's also designed as a center for entrepreneurship education. As such, it will offer entrepreneurs at all stages of developing a business, resources. This includes mentoring help, meetups, panel discussions, leadership spotlights, award initiatives, workshops and industry-specific labs.

"The Commons on Champa is about turning our entrepreneurs' ideas into successful startups and small businesses and setting them on a solid path to grow right here in Denver," said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. "Denver's ideas economy is booming. This public-private venture is now here to help our innovative community realize their dreams and boldly move to create jobs and opportunity in our city."

Echoed Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership: "This first-of-its-kind 'public campus' for entrepreneurs will facilitate connections, encourage collaboration and support the transformative ideas that will propel our city and economy forward."

The facility is hosting a grand opening Wed. May 13, with events throughout the day. People can register for the events, which will include a ribbon-cutting, a town-hall discussion with entrepreneurial leaders and a celebration with local foods. To learn more and register for the event, click here.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

John Denver celebrated in new Rockmount collection

Denver's favorite adopted son, John Denver (a.k.a. Henry John Deutschendorf), was known for first his music and second (or maybe third) for his colorful Western shirts. The late musician's estate recently asked Denver's Rockmount Ranch Wear to bring some of those shirts back to the retail racks.

"There's a good chance he wore our shirts, and if he didn't, he should have," asserts Rockmount President Steve Weil. "We know he wore a lot of Western shirts."

The LoDo-based cowboy shirt maker also is giving John Denver and Rockmount fans a chance to vote on which of the shirts to produce. "We have one in production and decided to float the other designs to see what the response was," Weil says. People can vote on the designs at SurveyMonkey.

It's not the first time Rockmount has done a line of celebrity shirts, Weil says. "Rockmount has been a mainstay among the rock and roll crowd for a long time." The company has created or reproduced shirts worn by numerous legendary music-makers. "Over the years we've had two really strong responses Eric Clapton and Robert Plant," Weil says. "This one's a third. Considering the army of artists we're been involved with, it's remarkable."

Weil says reps from John Denver's estate "came to us with the idea. We like when other creative people come to us with a collaborative design," he says. "There's a certain amount of historical significance to doing this collection. We take great pains to do these reproductions with care. We're being truthful to the originals he wore."

Weil's favorite John Denver song? "It's got to be 'Rocky Mountain High.'"

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver Startup Week 2015 open for submissions

The 2015 edition of Denver Startup Week is open for event submissions until May 31. It's the third year for the event, which takes place across Denver in offices, collaborative workspaces, breweries and other locations.

In soliciting submissions, the organizers said they're making some changes. "This year, we are doing things a little differently and making the focus on you, the individual," explain the organizers, including the Downtown Denver Partnership, the Colorado Technology Association, and a host of growing Denver startups. "How can Denver Startup Week make you a better founder, developer, product manager, marketer, salesperson, designer or maker?" 

Denver Startup Week is looking for workshops, keynotes and panel ideas that fit into one or more of six categories: founder, developer, product, growth, designer and manufacturer.

Tracks will cover traditional startup topics like developing products and going to market, as well as developing a team. They will also focus on taking young businesses to the next level through marketing and sales.

Other tracks will focus on more IT-specific needs, given the thriving nature of the IT community in Denver and Boulder. Those tracks will focus on back end architecture, APIs and more. Other events will focus on local designers and makers who are creating everything from 3D printers to craft beer to skis.

Learn more about the tracks and make submissions at www.denverstartupweek.org.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Loyalty-tech provider FiveStars adding 100 jobs in Denver

Customer loyalty company FiveStars Loyalty announced that its second office will be in Denver where it plans to hire more than 100 people -- primarily in sales -- by the end of 2015. The company develops customer loyalty programs for small and medium-sized businesses, among them Denver-based companies like Lodo's Bar & Grill, Stoney's, and GB Fish & Chips.

The news comes following an announcement that San Francisco-based FiveStars raised $26 million in Series financing. The financing round, led by Menlo Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and DCM, will help the company essentially double its staff to 300 employees as it strives to provide services to its more than 7,000 clients.

"We are thrilled that FiveStars has chosen Colorado to expand its operations and create new jobs in the high-tech industry," said Gov. John Hickenlooper. "Not only is FiveStars creating jobs here, they are also providing a platform for local businesses to develop customer loyalty programs that were once only accessible to large corporations, allowing small businesses to compete on a large business scale.

In Denver, the company has leased 10,000 square feet of office space at Battery621. “We evaluated over a dozen cities and by the end it was a no-brainer -- no other city offered what Denver had,” said Victor Ho, CEO and Co-Founder of FiveStars. "We wanted to pick a location where employees would have an excellent quality of life and we're ecstatic that we found our second home in Colorado."

"The FiveStars announcement further demonstrates that Denver is quickly becoming the small business and startup capital of the country," said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

The company looked at locating in other cities, including Austin and Seattle, but ultimately chose Denver. In making its decision, the company sited state and city tax incentives offered to attract tech companies.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Valid Eval, Kauffman Foundation partner to find why startups are successful

Denver-based Valid Eval partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to research exactly how startups and small businesses achieve success.

The organizations announced that they will look into Valid Eval's information on more than 2,000 companies across the U.S. "The principal question is: Is it possible at scale to pinpoint where entrepreneurs are on their developmental trajectory? And to do so on an an evidentiary basis," explains Valid Eval CEO and Co-Founder Adam Rentschler. "Valid Eval will assert that is true."

By working with the Kauffman Foundation's experts the groups hope to prove that assertion is true. "The holy grail is can we tie a causal relationship between these evaluations and the entrepreneurs' success and ultimately wealth creation."

Valid Eval's clients include government agencies, accelerators, universities and incubators, according to Rentschler. This includes clients like the Arizona Commerce Authority, which offers startups a chance to compete for $250,000 in funds twice a year. In all, the authority allocates $3 million annually through the program.

As companies apply through Valid Eval's platform it collects anonymous feedback information related to their applications from the experts that evaluated the companies. "If you're Kauffman, you can look at a a data set collected using a structured framework," he says. The feedback information includes qualitative and quantitative information about applications and the strategies within them.

"Measuring what is happening within large numbers of entrepreneurial companies as they develop is notoriously difficult," explains E.J. Reedy, director of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation. "Our team will look at Valid Eval's standardization of the evaluation and development processes to better understand if such structured work is helpful to improving entrepreneurial outcomes."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

DSTILL grows with craft distillery movement

There are now more than 70 licensed distillers in Colorado, including such Denver standouts as Laws Whiskey House to Leopold Bros. DSTILL, an annual celebration of craft spirits in Denver in its third year, is mirroring the industry's growth.

"DSTILL is a platform that brings people together," says Chuck Sullivan of Something Independent, founder of the week-long event. "The heart and soul of the programming is with with the craft-distilling community both in Colorado and nationally." 

In 2015, the April 16 showcase, where 49 craft distillers participating from across the country poured tastes of their spirits, was the most popular event, drawing more than 1,000 people.

"It is distillers and bartenders and those craft spirit enthusiasts from every on point on the compass. I think there is a great opportunity throughout the week for distillers to connect in a lot of different ways both with consumer and industry," Sullivan adds.

This year's event expanded to include a DSTILL Rocks, a music event at the Bluebird Theater with Nathaniel Rateliff and Paper Bird, as well as what Sullivan calls pop-up bars showcasing spirits at Union Station. Both of which were new events for the multiday event.

"It's safe to say the DSTILL Rocks Concert will become a main staple event of DSTILL each year," Sullivan says. He explains that all of the ticketed events of the conference were sold out this year. "That is indicative of the story of DSTILL and how it has evolved to be a serious celebration of the American craft spirit."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Tonix brings fresh flavor to an old staple

If you've ever tasted store-bought tonic water, you've probably used the quinine-laced stuff to make a gin and tonic. But you've probably never enjoyed drinking tonic water on its own. Denver's Tonix is changing that.

The syrup is made in Denver with cinchona bark from South America, as were the original tonic waters that were developed to help combat malaria in the 1840s. The bark gives the concentrate its distinctive ruddy color.

Since it's a concentrate, imbibers can tweak the flavor by adding more or less to a drink, whether they're using soda water or not, explains Tonix founder Travis Gilbert. Also it's shelf stable, so it won't go bad after it's opened.

"I love gin and I love gin and tonics," Gilbert says. His late father-in-law introduced him to gin and tonics. "The first thing he asked me was if I wanted one."

"I was disappointed with the tonics on the market," Gilbert says. "And I thought: 'If there's not anything on the market, why not make it on my own.'" He explains that there are a few craft tonics available and a few craft tonic concentrates available as well. But he developed Tonix to be a bit more versatile.

The company recently had a launch party where it introduced the syrup to potential buyers: restaurants, liquor stores and bars. Already some local companies like Nooch Vegan Market, Bear Creek Distillery, Hugo's Colorado Beer & Spirits and Grandma's House Brewery are carrying and using the copper-colored concentrate.

Tonix is currently only selling the concentrate. However, Gilbert anticipates making a ready-to-drink tonic water for sale.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Duby cannabis app gains more than 1,000 downloads first week

There's no doubt that cannabis is becoming more popular everyday. This means entrepreneurs are reaching out to engage this community of enthusiasts in new ways. Case in point: Duby, a new app that launched on Apple's App Store this week.

How popular is pot? Well, the app has already seen more than 1,000 downloads this week despite no advertising.

"Cannabis is one of the top themes on social media, yet most social media outlets restrict marijuana-related posts. Duby is a viral social network that allows the cannabis community to discover the latest marijuana trends and conversations," says Duby co-founder Alec Rochford.

The app, made by Art District on Santa Fe-based developers, is designed to allow users to post messages, pictures and videos anonymously but also allows them to track how far their post goes. To use the company's parlance, users can pass a Duby on or put it out.

The app also is location-based, which does two things, ensures the app is only used in places where medical or recreational marijuana is legal and let users see where their Dubys are lighting up, so to speak. "The concept is not to collect friends, but to increase your influence by posting content that is passed around among users," the company touts.

The creators also said that privacy is paramount to the app. "Users are ensured complete anonymity through the use of location obfuscation, input sanitation, explicit protection of personally identifiable information and the inability to privately message other users," the company says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Bear Creek Distillery wins awards with unique take on noble spirits

Just off Broadway in the Overland neighborhood, Bear Creek Distillery is a new operation -- its whiskeys haven't even had a full year to age yet -- but its spirits are already winning awards.

In March, Bear Creek Distillery won three awards at the Denver International Spirits Competition, an event that attracted companies as big as Beam Suntory (makers of Jim Beam and its family of products). But Bear Creek took home the gold in the Vodka Potato category with its 100 percent Wheat Vodka, and two silvers in the Vodka Rye and Rum White categories.

"Our vodkas are sort of unique because we make grain-specific vodka," explains co-founder Jay Johnson. "Typically a vodka off the shelf you'll find are mixed grain or potato. Potato vodkas are relatively common. It is relatively uncommon to find a vodka that is 100 percent wheat or 100 percent rye," he says of the award-winning spirits.

The Silver Rum, which isn't aged, also won an award at the show. "Rum is easy to make. It's ingredients are easy to clean up, you can get it bottled within a month," Johnson says. In fact, vodka is harder to make because it has to be distilled to such a high proof. "It has a to be 190 proof," he says.

These spirits are just the start for the nascent distillery. "We hope to release our Silver Rum that has been aged in used Wild Turkey barrels, and then we also do a house-infused spiced rum," Johnson explains. "We mirror our vodka with a rye whiskey that we hope to have available by the holidays or in the beginning of the year for our tasting room. That goes the same for our wheat whiskey. Our bourbon probably won't ready until 2017."

That's because of the nature of spirits like whiskey. They don't have a set completion date and need to mature at their own pace. While some distillers are importing spirits from other states to age or blend here in Colorado, that's not the case with Bear Creek.

"We do everything grain to glass right here in our facility off Broadway," Johnson says. "I understand the lure of it doing it the other way . . . but we do things as genuinely as possible, so we're going to bite the bullet and battle father time until the bourbon is ready and the whiskey is as well. In my opinion, that's the right way to do things."

Since it's so new, the distillery doesn't yet have extensive retail distribution, but the tasting room is just the place for quaffs and cocktails. "For all intents and purposes, it's a bar, but we can only serve liquor with things that we've made," Johnson says. That means no store-bought bitters, cordials or vermouth. "We have to get really creative with fresh juices and herbs and things like that. We've gotten really good at recreating cocktails with things that we're allowed to use."

The tasting room is open from Thursday to Saturday. During the rest of the week, Johnson and the crew are busy making more spirits and tending to those that are aging.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Spex unveils property inspection software

Galvanize-based Spex has launched a software-as-service tool that allows home inspectors to use a mobile app on their iOS devices and coordinate results via a web-based tool on their desktop.

The tools -- the field app, a dashboard system and a report generating system -- help reduce the amount of time home and property inspectors spend on paperwork

"Spex simplifies and streamlines the inspection process so everyone wins -- the policy holder, insurance carrier and contractor," explains Brett Goldberg, Spex's CEO. "Our enterprise platform is plug and play and can be easily scaled."

The mobile device app allows users to take photos, do field sketches, use aerial photos and add notations to video and audio. The tool coordinates the information with the dashboard in real time. The Spex Report is accessible via the dashboard and as an exportable document. It's is produced based on inspection notes.

The tools are gaining interest from both insurers and repair services. "We are always looking for efficient, innovative products to better serve policyholders," says Rod Warner, general manager at Family Mutual Insurance Company. "Spex presents the most comprehensive package of features we have found in the marketplace."

"With the Spex Enterprise platform, we're able to replace analog property inspection tools and improve the claim documentation process from the point of inspection and beyond," says Will Scarborough, project coordinator and lead estimator at Disaster Services. "In addition to accelerating inspections, estimate writing and the overall claims process, the platform allows our organization to enhance the customer experience, create transparency and resolve claims in a more efficient manner." 

Spex is currently offering a 30-day free trial of the tools. After the trial, it will cost $49 per month per user.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Aquaponics offering farming/fishery classes

For those looking to take their gardening skills to a whole new level there's aquaponics, a method of farming using aquaculture and hydroponics to grow both fish and food.

Sound confusing? It's a little more complicated than throwing seeds in the ground and watering them, but the mixed farming method significantly reduces water use and produces much more food in a small space. That's why Colorado Aquaponics is offering classes this spring to help people understand the benefits and opportunities such systems offer.

Basically, the fish waste in the system provide nutrients for the plants in the system., and the plants absorb the nutrients in the water and filter it for the fish.

The company is offering classes to help people understand and learn how to launch their own system in Denver from April 23-26 and again this fall from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1. The Denver-based company, which operates Flourish Farms at The GrowHaus, will also offer classes in California and Florida this year though partner Green Acre Aquaponics, says Flourish Farm Manager, Aquaponics Guru and Training Master Tawnya Sawyer.

"Colorado Aquaponics has offered workshops for home and hobby aquaponic enthusiasts since 2010," Sawyer says. "We have taught the Aquaponic Farming Course in Denver, Florida and California with our business partner, Green Acre Aquaponics, since 2012."

The four-day course costs $1,295, however it falls to $1,195 per person if multiple people from the same group join. In addition to the classes, students receive a detailed course workbook, design plans, and variety of online spreadsheets, log files and related resources, Sawyer adds. "Colorado Aquaponics offers support through consulting services, feasibility studies, site planning, business planning, crop rotations, vendor relationships and the like to help future farmers get up and running successfully," she says. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

FullContact raises $10M to continue connecting people

Denver-based startup FullContact just updated its address book-coordinating apps for iOS and Gmail. The progress helped it raise a new $10 million round of funding led by Baird Capital and Foundry Group with support from participation from Blue Note Ventures and 500 Startups. In all, the contact management software company has now raised nearly $20 million.

The FullContact address books apps are designed to coordinate users' contacts across their email accounts, social media platforms as well as their devices. "The genesis of the FullContact address book was on the web, and the web version is still the central hub for working with your FullContact account," says Brad McCarty. "However, FullContact for iOS brings the power of the address book to your iPhone or iPad via a native application."

"We absolutely plan to be on more platforms, and Windows-based systems make sense as an eventual area of expansion for us," McCarty says. Already the company is developing applications for Mac and for Android-based systems.

FullContact launched in 2010, and the current suite of apps launched out of private beta in 201. The company's APIs has been available to developers since 2012.

The company appears to be on the right track with the new products. "Eighteen months ago, FullContact employed 22 people," McCarty says. "Currently there are 53 employees however that number is likely to reach 75 employees in the next 12 months."

The new round of financing will help the company each those goals. As part of the funding Baird's Benedict Rocchio will join FullContact's board. "We're very excited to add Benedict and Baird Capital to the FullContact board and receive the long-term support from a great financial institution," says Bart Lorang, FullContact CEO.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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